Can Helminthic Therapy Inhibit the Rise of Autoimmune Diseases in the West
Helminthic therapy or worm therapy treats autoimmune diseases using parasitic (organisms which reside in our body) worms like hookworms and whipworms injected into the patient’s body. It is theoretically related to the hygiene hypothesis.
As autoimmune ailments, especially diabetes and arthritis, are on the rise in developed nations like the United States, researchers are increasingly focusing their attention on the efficacy of this novel treatment.
Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), eczema, asthma, hay fever, dermatitis and food allergies are the list of autoimmune and allergic ailments treated by this technique.
These diseases are also the interests of current research on this therapy. The University of Nottingham and the University of Iowa are known to publish some research papers on this subject.
How Helminthic Therapy or Worm Therapy Addresses Autoimmunity Based on Hygiene Hypothesis ?
Thanks to the development of improved health techniques and potent vaccines in the western nations, several conventional diseases are cured, subsequently increasing the life expectancy of the general population in this part of the world. But, advancements in the medical field have completely eliminated the presence of parasites and their influence on the body.
According to hygiene hypothesis, parasites like helminths, play an important role in strengthening the body’s own natural protection system (technically called the immune system).
Due to industrialization and the consequential changes in the environment of the western industrialized countries, people are less exposed to certain parasites, bacteria and viruses.
This trend is believed to increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases in the west along with genetic susceptibility factor.
The hygiene hypothesis partially explains why lack of exposure to parasites increases the risk of developing these immune system related ailments. A complete explanation is still awaited.
Though the mechanism of autoimmune diseases is not understood yet, it is believed that abnormal antigen responses play an important part. Antigens are recognized molecules of the immune system that protect our body from threats like parasites. These molecules are present within and outside the healthy cells of the body.
While they are present inside a cell, they generate Th1 type response. Th2 response is generated by these molecules when they are outside a cell. The theory believes that these two types of response are jointly regulated by some action.
Proper immune response, according to this theory, is partially learned by the immune system by being exposed to these parasites and the rest is regulated by their mere presence in the body.
Significance of Helminthic Therapy in the Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases:
Known for their chronic and life-threatening nature, these ailments have no cure as the causes are yet to be known. Available treatments keep the symptoms under check delaying the inevitable damage of the targeted organs.
Autoimmune diseases are among the ten leading causes of death among women up to 65 years.. As is well-known, the immune system turns hostile in people suffering from these diseases and attack specific organs. Based on this criterion, there are 80 known forms of these ailments.
Prescribed drugs for these conditions are made up of potent chemicals. Though more or less effective, they come along with unavoidable side effects increasing the complications further.
This is the reason why health care professionals are always on the lookout for natural treatment techniques like worm therapy to address these diseases of a dreadful category.
Food for Thought:
Is the rise in autoimmune diseases in the western world a consequence of developments in the medical field ?
Should there be a balance of exposure between harmless parasites and harmful pathogens for optimum efficiency of the immune system ?